Monthly Archives: September 2006

Sontag on differences between California and New York

I’m fascinated with the differences between New York (where i spent my first 18 years) and San Francisco Bay Area (where i have spent my last 14 years).

See my 2004 post: How San Franciscans and New Yorkers Differ

My brother, Jon Hoffman, posted out to me an essay in today’s New York Times Magazine by Susan Sontag on which she says:

“In Calif., a stranger is a [potential] friend until he proves otherwise; in NY, a stranger is an enemy until he proves otherwise. One uses up a lot of energy in NY by that hypothesis.”

So true. i’ve found that it is so much easier to trust people initially than to distrust them. and that doesn’t mean leaving your car doors unlocked while parking in the Tenderloin … but it does mean not worrying that everyone you come in contact with is going to screw you over … and allowing for the fact that some shrinkage (some people taking advantage of you) in life is ok … it is the cost of living a good life where it is easier to be happy.

VentureBeat publishes article on video ads

i did a second stint as a guest columnist at VentureBeat.

see: The oncoming video ads movement


And an ad in the video, even at the end of the video, has your complete attention. Complete. The only ad medium that captures a greater percentage of your attention are urinal ads…especially after a few soy caramel macchiatos.

what i’ve found out is that Matt Marshall is not only a great writer (everyone knows that), he’s also a great editor.

(and special thank you to Vivek Sodera at Rapleaf who edited this piece and gave it voice and life)

Congrats to Chris Alden and Aaron Emigh at Rojo

Rojo was acquired by SixApart yesterday.

Rojo is a great company that has been extremely innovative. Rojo is, in my opinion, the best blog newsreader.

and Rojo also pumped out the NooZ service which is really cool and an extremely interesting idea.

Rojo has a small but outstanding team. Its two chiefs, Chris Alden and Aaron Emigh, are true visionaries. I met Aaron in 1999 when I tried to hire him to be the VP Engineering at BridgePath (he turned us down to start his own company).

I met Chris about a year later and we became close friends — through a shared love of politics, free markets, and technology. We serve on the board of Lead21 together and also on the technology advisory board of the Pacific Research Institute.

last year (in 2005) I introduced Chris and Aaron and they became quick collaborators with Aaron joining Rojo as CTO shortly thereafter.

SixApart is now lucky to have two of the smartest guys in technology working for them.

So congrats to Rojo, Chris, and Aaron — and good move by SixApart.

Biz idea:

OK … i was inspired by my friend Noah Kagan who often blogs free business ideas.

i thought i’d try out the same thing. every few weeks or so, i’ll through out a random business idea. some of these ideas will be great. some will be absolutely horrible. the idea here is to encourage your (the potential entrepreneur) brainstorming…

So here is idea #1: (at the time of this posting, the domain is available … so grab it now)… is like HotOrNot meets DIGG: for places like, Jdate, MySpace, friendster, etc.

instead of pictures being uploaded to HotOrNot, works like this:

– a user is surfing MySpace, friendster,, JDate, etc. and the user wants to rate the good-looking-ness of the profile they are viewing.
– the user can copy the dating-site URL and paste it into (or just use a bookmarklet) … screen scrapes the photos off of the dating site (or just does an iframe)
– then the user rates the person’s hot-ness from 1 to 10.

and, of course, other people can go to and just go through the pictures (like HotOrNot).

this would be really fun.

of course, the pitfalls wil be copyright issues. but there is likely to be a way around this (like an iframe or partnership or luck or something).

anyway … enjoy the free business idea. and remember, this idea is worth what you paid for it …

Does fatherhood make you happy?

I’m reading Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert now. this is one of the best books I have ever read. I’m 3/4 of the way done and I love the book (and see his great blog: (thank you Gwen Campbell for introducing me to Gilbert’s blog).

Gwen also pointed out this fascinating piece in Time Magazine by Gilbert:

Does Fatherhood Make You Happy?

well worth the read.

Free to Choose by Milton Friedman

(this is a repost from the Lead21 blog)

One of the patron thought-leaders of Lead21 is Milton Friedman … one of the greatest economists of the 20th Century (and now the 21st Century).

Friedman solidified his stardom by creating a 10-part TV series in the 1970s called Free to Choose. this is a television classic and there is nothing better to watch to get educated on economics. this TV series is better than any college education on economics or political thought.

Economist Greg Mankiw (another one of my favorite economists) provides a link to the free videos (now available on Google video) on his blog:

now i rarely watch TV and don’t have access to one in my home … but as Mankiw says, some TV is worth watching.

Long Now seminars

If you are looking for a great podcast while you drive, run, or work … I highly recommend the Long Now Seminars.

this incredible Stewart Brand production is free to download. over the last 5 months, i’ve made my way through all of the seminars … and most of them are extremely interesting and thought-provoking.

Bush era is reminiscent of Kennedy/Johnson

When the eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency is over (2001-2009), I think he’ll most be remembered as similar to the eight years of Kennedy/Johnson (1961-1969) of 40 years earlier.

Lyndon1Both presidential eras had very bold policies. Kennedy/Johnson in taking the cold war into a hot way (Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, etc.) and pursuing the great society. Bush in taking over Afghanistan, Iraq, pursuing a Wilsonian foreign policy, and his push to reform social security.

Both got us into a quagmire war — Vietnam and Iraq. Vietnam defined the boomers. Iraq will likely define our generation.

Both eras initially massively cut taxes which was the centerpiece of their economic strategy (though Johnson eventually raised taxes to pay for the war).

Both eras initially strengthened their party but ultimately left their party weaker. 1964 was a Democratic landslide. 2002 and 2004 brought big GOP gains. But in the end, Kennedy/Johnson left their party weaker. It is too early to tell, but most indications are that the Republican party might have disastrous long-term consequences. Of course, Presidents often leave their party weaker. The Clinton era saw the greatest party decline in the history of modern politics.

And, of course, both presidential eras massively increased govt spending — to the tune of very long term detriment to the US economy. The 1970s were a disaster due, in large part, from over-spending. The 2010s might be just as bad.

(Note that this isn’t a knock on Kennedy/Johnson or George W. Bush … just an observation. If I was alive in 1960, I would have probably voted for Kennedy. And I voted for Bush in 2000 (but not in 2004 because I thought he increased spending too much). but I think the parallels between the two presidential eras are uncanny).

the tale of two shirts

I have few articles of clothing that regularly get compliments from others.

of those, two shirts i own get complimented more than any other articles of clothing i have. (common is “nice shirt!” and “i like your shirt” and “who is that dorky guy wearing that great shirt”)

of the two shirts … one of them is the most expensive shirt i own. makes sense. it is a beautiful shirt. i didn’t even pick it out myself (also makes sense) … i got it as a gift.

the second shirt i bought for $12 at Costco…